It’s Unofficially Officially Spring!

Happy Earth Week!

Spring is here! We’ve been waiting to say these three words with an exclamation mark for a while. We didn’t know when we could say them out loud. Officially, we could have said them 32 days ago, but many people wouldn’t have heard us. That’s because they were wearing earmuffs and hats that cover their ears. You need to stay warm when you’re digging yourself out of six foot snow drifts.

Now, 32 days later, the not-so-official announcement that spring has truly arrived has arrived. We’re making a prediction. We’re not meteorologists, but we have been outside. We also have weather apps. We’ve seen the snow melting. The temperatures hit a tropical 60 degrees in Minnesota, and we realize it’s almost May. It’s a safe bet that spring is here to stay. Of course, we’re not 100 percent certain. We got fooled two weeks ago with a blizzard and one foot of snow.

anchorman-2_-the-legend-con

Who says that humans are the only ones with a sense of humor?

Like our official announcement of spring, we’re also announcing the kick off our tree giveaway, which will be happening at schools and communities across the US this week! If you signed-up to receive a tree with your child this week, thank you for joining us.

rolling-up-sleeve

So yes, the time has finally come. It’s time to pack away our parkas, scarves, earmuffs, woolen hats, mitts and other winter paraphernalia to the attic. It’s time to replace the snow shovels with garden shovels. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty again.

Tree planting season is back. And spring is finally, officially, we-really-think-so-this-time, absolutely here!

We’re in the Home Stretch!

 

French-Bulldog-Stretch

 

Spring has sprung!

That’s right. In just a few weeks, the tree giveaway will be happening at schools and communities across the US (and even in parts of Canada!).

Did you register for a tree this year? Awesome! You’re all set.

Slipped your mind? Forgot to tie that string on your finger? That’s okay. You’ve earned your good karma points. You still have a chance to register for a tree until Sunday, April 9 even if your school’s deadline has passed.

Is your child’s school participating this year? Can’t remember? You can find out here. Don’t see your child’s school on the list? That’s okay too. You can sign up here. (Make sure you do this on a tablet, laptop or desk computer.)

 

tie

 

Spring may be the season for tree planting, but there’s some “family members” that haven’t been feeling the tree hugging love.

You might know one or two. We know one. Surprised how we overlooked him. He loves to dig. He loves dirt and after fire hydrants trees are his best friend. If anyone was a natural at tree planting (or tree wetting!), it’s him!

So rather than feeling left out this year, he took the initiative. We still don’t know how he learned to type. But that’s for another day.

Right now it’s time to exhale, lift our heads up and stretch towards Earth Day. As you enjoy this spring season with its blossoming flowers, blue skies and warmer weather, remember to keep your umbrellas handy. It’s going to be raining trees for the next few weeks!

 

 

Horace Cleveland — The Man behind the Cape

“Why aren’t there condos here?”

That’s the thought that bobbed around in my head when my brother and I biked around Minneapolis last summer.

Biking around the city was my brother’s idea. It was my first summer in Minneapolis after my move, and he thought it was the best way for me to see the city up close.

Up to that point my view of the city was limited, confined to the window seats of planes when I’d visit my brother and his family during the Christmas holidays. It was always the same. I looked down from several thousand feet and saw a city covered in blankets of snow with a landscape that looked like the terrain of Antarctica.

My yearly winter visits didn’t allow for much outdoor sightseeing either. The weather was rarely friendly in December, and I didn’t find it appealing to dress up like the Michelin Man and waddle around as a tourist in a massive parka, four scarves, ski mask, goggles and ear muffs.

It wasn’t my idea of fun. Maybe that’s why my brother kept my “outdoor” activities within climate-controlled environments, like walks around the downtown skyway, social gatherings (indoors of course), or coffee shop chats where he pressured me to warm up my innards with mugs of hot chocolate.

My summer bike ride, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. My view of the city transformed from white, grey and frozen to Dorothy in Technicolor in the Wizard of Oz. I was led me through parks and wooded areas, over a winding creek and quaint bridges, around gorgeous trees and beautiful lakes.

I thought I was dreaming. I was engulfed in green everywhere, pinching myself, thinking I’d wake up and the continuous backdrop of trees, lakes and parks would disappear, and I’d be staring out the window of another plane again.

Why hadn’t I experienced this feeling in other places? I’d visited other cities with green space, but they didn’t seem as extensive or well-planned. Some cities had tiny scraps of green refuge and whatever was left of them was being overtaken by an infestation of condos, strip malls or armies of Starbucks.

Who was responsible for my oasis of bicycling happiness that day? Was it the work, I thought, of a mighty environmental superhero, someone with blue tights, a cape and a big S stretched across his chest?

 Bike ride sunset over Lake of the Isles

 

I knew my superhero idea was more comic book imagination than reality, but I was curious to find out if it was true. My curiosity led me to a hero of sorts, although his blue tights and cape were replaced with a chin curtain, blazer and bow-tie.

His name was Horace Cleveland.

Horace Cleveland may not have leaped tall buildings in a single bound or had x-ray vision, but he definitely saw the future. Here’s what he said almost 120 years ago:

“Look forward for a century to the time when the city has a population of a million, and think what will be their wants. They will have wealth enough to purchase all that money can buy, but their wealth cannot purchase a lost opportunity or restore a natural feature of grandeur and beauty, which would then possess priceless value…”

 

Hero Horace

Fortunately, the Minneapolis Board of Park Commissioners knew the importance of seizing a lost opportunity and gave Cleveland, a noted landscape architect, the thumbs up to plan out his vision.  With the support of Charles Loring, an influential commissioner and the first president of the Minneapolis Park Board, Cleveland became the mastermind behind a number of parks and interconnected parkways that preserved the existing natural features within and around the city.

Future park commissioners and superintendents expanded on his vision, particularly Theodore Wirth (an instrumental advocate of the Minneapolis Park System), which ultimately lead to the famous “Grand Rounds,” an interconnected series of parkways, and parks, centered on the Mississippi River.

Broken down, the city now has parks within 6 blocks of every resident, comprising a 6,400-acre system consisting of local and regional parks, playgrounds, golf courses, gardens, biking and walking paths, nature sanctuaries, the Chain of Lakes (which receive over 5 million visits yearly) and a 55-mile parkway system.

Need to soak that all in? Here’s a cool video that shows how it all began.

Over a century later, the Minneapolis Park System is still getting top marks. When asked in a recent survey what percentage of Minneapolis residents saw the parks and lakes as a unique and valuable asset, the number was 99 percent! What’s more, the city was voted this year as having the best park system in the country.

Much of the praise can be traced back to Cleveland’s influence, his philosophy of open spaces, natural design, and the importance of preserving these public spaces for future generations to enjoy.

I hope my work at Neighborhood Forest can continue to enhance the natural beauty of our neighborhoods like Cleveland and the city’s visionaries did. The city of Minneapolis is beautiful, and I hope our work can take that beauty to the surrounding suburbs, other towns and cities across the state, and eventually across the nation.

I imagine that would make Horace Cleveland happy, other than trading in his bow-tie and blazer for a cape.

Image source: 3rd image

Vivek Narula is the Director of Neighborhood Forest (@treesforkids– an organization that gives free trees to schoolchildren every Earth Day.

Wafting Over the Airwaves

Happy 2014! Hope you had a wonderful holiday season and your year is off to a great start.

Jack Frost must be proud of himself. The year’s barely started and he’s already showing off, getting all the attention with record-breaking temperatures and snowfall that’s made even the most fashion-conscious people bundle up, wear snow pants and waddle around like penguins. On the other hand, I snubbed my nose at Mr. Frost and decided to ditch the penguin pants for a pair of lederhosen.

At least it felt like I did. The hills recently were alive with the sound of music. Okay, Julie Andrews wasn’t with me and I wasn’t near any hills, but there was music and conversation in the air, and I was definitely alive.

Neighborhood Forest had a show on KFAI that was filled with the sound of tree-themed music, including a song called Breathing Trees from Minnesota native singer/songwriter Barbara McAfee, and chats with special guests from Lake Harriet School and Seward Community Co-op who talked about their participation in our program.

My brother and founder of Neighborhood Forest, Vikas Narula, spoke about the organization’s past, its vision for the future and the bed-ridden epiphany that made him put trees and children together 4 years ago. No yodeling was involved.

If you missed it you get a second chance to hear it again, even the bloopers — the sound of a disconnected phone, my song segue into a sudden station announcement and other unexpected laughs the whole family will enjoy.

Click on the link below to go to the KFAI website. If you like it, feel free to share. It’s online for a few weeks.

Danke.

http://kfai.org/node/41041

Vivek Narula is the Director of Neighborhood Forest (@treesforkids– an organization that gives free trees to schoolchildren every Earth Day.